Avgolemono (Soup Kitchen)

Late at night, I’m having trouble sleeping, so you all get a bonus recipe – the one in the title. The choice is Tamara’s fault. She went and made a greekish meal for her meal of the day today, and I actually yelled, “Where’s the soup?” (Dawns on me I’ve not pointed anyone to her site. Go, enjoy. It’s cooking, there are several good and fun ideas. Come back when you’re ready – I’m not going anywhere.

Now before I begin, I really want to point out something that amazes me. There are what seem like millions of chicken soup recipes. Even when you find one soup, you discover there are almost infinite differences. Chicken and noodle, for example (which I’ll get to eventually). I’ve seen thin broth and thick. Different noodles (thin or thick and let’s not forget the TYPE of pasta, I mean noodle)? Veggies, and if so which. How much if any chicken meat and what’s done with it. You could do a tome on nothing but chicken soup.

I’m not going to but I want to point out that any recipe I write is not THE WORD. It’s a starting point – a guide that worked, but which you’re free to develop more fully.

So let’s take a look at Avgolemono. It’s a greek soup. It’s chicken broth, lemon juice, and egg. See above about thick/thin, with or without veggies (or rice or orzo, most commonly in this recipe), with or without chicken meat. Yes, I’ve seen all these. Go for it.

My preferred way of making this soup depends on where it’s sitting in the meal plan. If it’s the teaser for the meal, I like a broth – a clear soup with no particular extraneous bits. If it’s the meal itself, it gets additives. Let’s go to town, shall we?

You want 2 cups of our broth, the juice of one lemon (about a quarter cup if you’re not using fresh), one egg, and a dash of pepper. Bring the broth and juice to a boil. While that’s going on beat the egg till it’s well mixed. If you really want something special, separate the egg, beat the white till it’s in soft peaks, beat back in the yolk. Either way, temper the egg and bring it back to the broth.

Waitaminute. Tempering. Odds are one or two of you went, “Hunh?”

If you just dump the egg into the broth and lemon juice it’ll curdle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for some dishes (it’s part of the ‘secret’ to egg drop soup) but we don’t want it here. If it curdles we’ll get these hard lumps and strings in our soup, and that’s not our objective. What we WANT is for the egg to slightly thicken the soup so it’s soup instead of tea.

The way we do this is to add a little bit of the hot broth (in this case about an eighth of a cup) to the eggs while continuing to beat or whisk them. Once that’s beat in, do it again. And a third time. By this time the eggs have both warmed and diluted enough that they aren’t shocked by the broth.

Picture it as trying to get into an icy pool. You can just jump in, but your muscles are going to tell you. Or you can ease in bit by bit, and while it’s still COLD you won’t have those fun cramps of chest and limbs.

So, you tempered the egg and put it back in the soup. Pull it from the heat, stir just a bit more, add that dash of pepper, and serve. It is a beautiful yellow-golden color with a rich taste that finishes by cleansing the palate. Absolutely wonderful for teasing your tongue. This batch, by the way, serves two as in this mode.

As I said, I also like it for a full soup. For this, I start by doubling the recipe, and I add only two ingredients. For this batch I’m going to also have a half cup of orzo and one chicken breast.

The orzo goes into the broth as soon as it starts boiling, and I’m going to WAIT on the egg as the orzo needs about 15-20 minutes to fully develop. While that’s going on, however, I prep that chicken breast. I trim out the tendons and such, and then I cut it up. My preference here is to cut slices about 1/4 inch thick, then go back and cut those into bite-sized segments of about an inch long.

The chicken breast goes into the soup about the time I start prepping the egg. Because of how thin I sliced it it’s only going to need a couple of minutes to be done. Once more beat the egg (or again if you want to be fancy separate and so forth), temper it, and bring it back to the soup. As a meal this is again two servings – this time of about 2 and a quarter cups what with all the extra stuff).

Once more, I’ve seen it without the chicken and with other veggies and so I need to emphasize there is NO ONE WAY. Start with what works, and modify it to what you like. This is cooking, and most of us are not chefs trying to hit that single perfect IDENTICAL target day after day. You just want a great meal.

Here’s an excellent soup to add to your files. Enjoy.

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